It’s worrying to hear that one in six people in the UK suffers from type 2 diabetes and even more worrying to know that one in three of us is prediabetic for type 2 diabetes. That means we are all likely to know someone in this position or are in that state ourselves. Worrying, yes, but when does this become alarming? Of course, from the perspective of NHS funding issues, this really is alarming, but at what point are sufferers made to feel the urgency or potential hope in the situation?
If their experience is anything like ours, the answer is that they are not. We have spent the last 2 years trying to restore our dad Geoff’s health as a type 2 diabetic with all its associated complications plus a few others besides. From his point of view, he was taking a sizeable handful of pills for high blood pressure and cholesterol anyway, so a load of metformin was hardly going to cause any trouble. He was told that it was just a ‘progressive but manageable condition’.
It wasn’t until 9 years after his diagnosis that circulatory complications and diabetic ulcers brought home the very real threat of amputation. The prognosis for someone who survives a diabetic amputation is worse than that of almost all cancers and, as a family, we weren’t ready to lose our dad – even one piece at a time.
Everyone is busy with their own work and family commitments, but we knew that if we didn’t step in things would only get worse for dad. We overhauled his diet, got him out cycling with us and got him involved in working with diabetes charities. Now, a year and a half later, he has lost 6 stone, is a keen amateur endurance cyclist (he’ll be there at the Prudential 100 again this year) and he is speaking around the world about his experiences as a patient with diabetes.
There has been a huge amount of work on all our parts to get him to this point and he hasn’t been the most amenable participant in the project. We found that inspiring him to make small, manageable changes has been more effective than preaching at, or nagging, him to take control of his health could ever have been. Educating him in the implications of not getting his diabetes under control served a purpose, but the real improvements happened when he was inspired to get better. It was the combination of hope, support and continual and consistent action that has meant he has now safely been able to come off all his diabetes medication; his diabetes has now been officially documented as ‘resolved’.
We still have to keep an eye on him and his blood glucose levels from time to time, but he is in better health now than he has been in decades and his quality of life has improved unrecognisably. Added to that, not only do we have the hope of many more years with our dad, we have made the most amazing memories whilst fixing him. The film following his story, Fixing Dad, will be released in the autumn. For more information on the project please visit www.fixingdad.com or www.facebook.com/fixingdad.